Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lenten Season

I am not usually one to observe things like Lent. Many of us who are members of the Religious Society of Friends believe that no one day is more holy than the other; and that we should hold ourselves to high standards of work and self sacrifice every day.

But not all Quakers feel that way about holidays. Many observe Christmas and Easter in the same fashion as other Protestant Christians with gifts, family gatherings, and festivities centered around their children. And, I know a couple of Friends who observe Lent as a spiritual discipline, doing one additional and prayerful chore daily during the forty days of the Lenten season. This is an expansion of their daily devotional prayer and study.

Other Christians I know who observe Lent follow the tradition of giving up something that they get pleasure from for the duration. One person I know gives up social media during Lent. These friends have inspired me.

The practice of a Lenten fast is to help someone to grow spiritually. Giving up something we enjoy is meant to make more space for the Holy Spirit in our lives. That seems like something I could use. So this year I am trying my own variation on these practices.

Starting today I am giving up the time spent watching television news in bed before starting my daily work. When I have insomnia this can begin quite early. I have been thinking that this is not is not as productive as it could be. Regardless, I still get up and start my day at just about the same time most people do. And, I put in a full eight sometimes ten hour day. But because my office is in my home I have the luxury of using the "commuting" time any way I want. Instead of watching the news I am going to use this time for prayer and writing.
One reason early Quakers rejected things like Lent was that they felt that they had become empty rituals. People went through them in a perfunctory way and they did not really help them to be any closer to God. The practice had lost its meaning and had no lasting effect on them. I am hoping that my Lenten discipline will last beyond Easter and I will give up early morning news in bed altogether.

I can't say that the writing I do during this time will all be made public or that I will begin to observe Lent every year going forward. But this year I am going to use Lent as an opportunity to improve my personal discipline and enrich my spiritual journey. Perhaps on the way I'll discover a few other ways I can become a better person.


  1. I am "observing" Lent this year too. I don't always even though I am a Catholic-Quaker. I don't know, I just want to feel a little like Jesus, willing to let go of things, seek only after God's voice and God's presence. I'm even trying a few days of fasting - testing why so many in the past have found it helpful spiritually. Glad to see there is another Friend out there on a similar path. God bless.

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  3. When I was a Catholic I found that fasting during lent was a temporary practice (40 days) of abstaining from something that gave me pleasure. After leaving the Catholic Church I found I am led to give up things on a more pernament basis, or at least an indeternimate basis, that give me pleasure to improve my spiritual journey. In the former instance I would find myself pre-occupied with the end of the fast for the sake of re-indulging myself, while in the latter instance I find I lose my attachment to the pleasure itself without feelings of deprivation which in the past, when on diets or the like, would lead to feelings of frustration and lack of patience with others. I have not noticed that the leadings to fast or abstain occur at any particular time of year or coincide with the lenten season but seem to relate to the seasons of my own life and how busy I am. Again an individual timing rather than a collective timing. Fasting has always been a benefit to spiritual life. Fasting for lent is better than not fasting at all or as an introduction to fasting but it shouldn't replace fasting in response to the leadings of our Soul. I think that is one of the strong points of being a Quaker and relying on our personal experience as a Mystic instead of a church calendar or creed.